Friday, March 15, 2013

Statistics Playing Major Role in College Football Playoffs

In the above article, Sports Illustrated sought the recommendations of 5 college football and basketball "stats gurus" to get a better feel for how the college football playoff committee should go about choosing the four teams to compete in the 2014 national championship playoffs.  They discussed three primary themes:

1. The need for accountability and transparency. Although the BCS releases their rankings and scoring/point totals every week, the actual formula used in these calculations is proprietary.  I am in agreement with the 5 experts in calling for full transparency in the system.  However, this makes it difficult to include an "eye test" in the decision (whether this should be included is another debate).  My favorite quote:
"I doubt this will happen, but I think they need to have a non-voting data person in the room as well. Someone to help the members interpret ratings and other data sources, answer questions that are posed and hold the group accountable to information that is shared."
2.  Its about more than wins and losses.  Should other factors like injuries and margin of victory/defeat play into account?
"Of course, the danger of using advanced stats or ignoring head-to-head results is the committee might wind up producing a bracket that the majority of the public -- accustomed to seeing rankings ordered largely by team records -- rejects."
3.  Strength of schedule isn't what it seems.
"There are many ways to measure schedule strength, and many of them are valid. I like to use this example. Imagine two schedules. Schedule A consists of the six best teams in the country and the six worst. Schedule B consists of the 12 most average teams in the country. Which is tougher? Ask Alabama, and they'll obviously say Schedule A. Alabama would have a much easier time running the table against Schedule B. But ask the worst team in the country which one is easier, and they'll say the opposite. The worst team in the country would have a hell of a time winning a single game against Schedule B. ... So depending on who you are, you can perceive the exact same schedule of teams very differently."